The longstanding Trans-Tasman rivalry was in full swing during last Saturday night’s Speedcar Sydney City 50 Lap Classic at Sydney’s Valvoline Raceway, and in the end, it was New Zealand invader Michael Pickens who conquered his Australian adversaries to claim his sixth Classic crown.
Scheduled to be fought out over two nights before a downpour of rain made Friday night’s racing impossible, drivers were champing at the bit to take to the track for the amended one-night Sydney City 50 Lap Classic format on Saturday night.
With the unique 50-lap feature race seeing the fastest drivers start from towards the rear of the field ahead of the B main transferees, with each driver then choosing which car they would like to start in front of them, there were certainly no shoo-ins when it came to potential winners.
There was no shortage of action throughout the 50-lap distance, particularly for Pickens, who started deep in the field out of position 18 and wasted no time in making his charge forward. By lap 10, Pickens had already made up 15 spots to make his way into podium contention and just two laps later, the lead was his as he pipped fellow countryman Scott Farmer.
Despite a significant stint out in front, the battle didn’t end here for Pickens. Delivering a stellar performance, Nathan Smee was forced to start from the back of the pack after qualifying for the feature race via the B main, but that didn’t stop him from carving his way forward and impressively executing a pass on Pickens for the lead on lap 39.
Controlling the pace out in front for a handful of laps, Smee was looking good for a victory until Pickens returned the favour, pulling a slide job on Smee, which caused him to jump the cushion and slip backwards, unfortunately out of podium contention. From there, it was smooth sailing for Pickens, who once again proved that he has what it takes to challenge the Aussies.
Starting the race from the inside of Pickens in 17th, Matt Smith’s was a similar journey, which saw him crack into the top three in the opening dozen laps, eventually doing his country proud by coming home in the runner-up spot, while another Kiwi in Leon Burgess rounded out the podium in third place.
Certainly making their presence known, the New Zealand contingent had an extremely strong showing, with Hayden Williams (NZ) being the next to cross the finish line ahead of Nathan Smee, who was disappointed not to have been able to hold on for the win, despite his outstanding drive.
Starting from 12th, Dayne Kingshott did well to halve his positions, with Peter Hunnibell (NZ), newly-crowned NSW Champion Kaidon Brown, Tom Payet (WA) and Adam Clarke (Qld) completed the top-10 finishers. After lining up in position 19, Brown did extremely well to make up 11 spots, while Payet also did well to bounce back to ninth after being relegated to the rear of the field.
American visitor Alex Bright was the next to greet the chequered flag aboard the Graham Jones Racing owned WA # 4 car, ahead of expat New Zealander Farmer, Michael Stewart, Adam Wallis (Vic), Hayden Guptill (NZ), Dean Meadows, Braydan Willmington, Robert Heard (SA), Taylor Clarke and Jayden Worthington (NZ), who started from pole position.
The first of the feature-race casualties was Matt Jackson, who suffered mechanical dramas after starting out of position 10. He was later joined on the infield by first reserve Dan Biner, Harley Smee and Troy Jenkins, who started on the inside of the back row.
With drivers contesting two rounds of heat races instead of the initially scheduled one, Smith was the best of the bunch, being the only driver to clinch a pair of wins, while remaining wins went the way of Jackson, Pickens, Scott Doyle, Brown, Burgess and Bright.
In B main one, it was Harley Smee who emerged victorious to earn his feature-race transfer spot, followed by Jenkins and first reserve Biner, while Willmington scored the win in B main two from Nathan Smee, with the latter certainly not wasting his feature race opportunity.
Without the support of numerous dedicated sponsors, the Sydney City 50 Lap Classic simply wouldn’t have been possible.
The Speedcar Association of NSW would like to thank the following sponsors for their valued support:
American Tire and Racing
CEJN Pty Ltd
Diamond Air Conditioning
Rondalee Metal Fabrication
Victorian Inspection and Consulting
Weston Machine Shop
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